On April 2, CRS-14 mission aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was sent to the International Space Station (ISS) with tonnes of cargo including food supplies, experimental satellites and equipment and samples of human and bull sperm. Yes, NASA has sent human and bovine sperm sample up at the ISS which is currently orbiting the Earth at over 400 km off the surface of the Earth. But the question is, Why? Actually, NASA is conducting an experiment on these sperm samples to analyze the effects of microgravity on it which is a part of understanding its behavior as the foundation for future manned missions to the red planet or lunar surface.
Named as Micro-11, the experiment contains frozen samples of human sperms and bull sperms that will be thawed using sophisticated technique onboard the ISS and then, it will be chemically activated in order to mate it with an egg. Astronauts will record the experiment on video to track the movement of the sperm, progress as well as other properties after which, the data collected by the astronauts will be sent back to Earth for the researchers to analyze it.
According to lead scientist Fathi Karouia, NASA’s space biology project, previous experiments conducted in the microgravity states that it actually facilitate sperm mobility. Previously, faster cell regeneration was recorded with certain types of organisms which were studied. The current experiment is different as it will prove the analytical methods that will be analyzed to assess the fertility of bovine and human sperm in long-duration spaceflight.
But this isn’t the first time that NASA has conducted such experiment on sperm as previously, sperms from species such as salamanders, sea urchins, snails, medaka fish, frogs, nematode, jellyfish, as well as other aquatic invertebrate species were tested in space. According to a previous experiment, aquatic invertebrates such as daphnia, ostracods gastropods, and amphipods were reported to successfully produce offspring in space repeatedly for a duration of four months.